Anthony Horowitz is the fourth author to be asked to write a James Bond novel. Horowitz is well qualified for the job. He is the creator of the popular James Bond-for-kids Alex Rider series and also behind the long running Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War TV series. But, perhaps more importantly, he managed to successfully channel Arthur Conan Doyle in the estate-approved Sherlock Holmes book House of Silk a few years back.
In Trigger Mortis, unlike some of the other new Bond books, Horowitz attempts to write Bond as Ian Fleming would have. The book starts two weeks after the end of Goldfinger and is written in a style that is true to the period. Horowitz was given access to a treatment Fleming had written for a James Bond TV series, including some notes and dialogue, which revolved around a plot to kill an English racing car driver. He used this plot as the jumping off point for a much more dastardly scheme and incorporated the material that Fleming had written. It is to his credit that it is impossible to tell which are the five hundred or so words written by Fleming and integrated into the book.
As with his Sherlock Holmes effort, Horowitz is not shy with the fan service, particularly for lovers of the original Fleming material. Pussy Galore, the book version of the Bond girl from Goldfinger, makes an appearance, the evil Russian organisation SMERSH is back and all of Bond’s favourite cigarettes, guns, watches and drinks get a mention. Numerous references are also made not only to the recently completed Goldfinger mission but also to most of the preceding Bond adventures.
Horowitz walks an interesting tightrope in Trigger Mortis. Ian Fleming’s Bond, and indeed his writing, was chauvinist and overtly racist. Writing for a 21st century audience, Horowitz’s writing and his Bond, although true to the original, is not. Among other things, the female characters have significant agency, Bond has a fairly openly gay best friend who calls him a “dinosaur” for his views, and the bad guy is a Korean who may be a psychopath but has a legitimate beef with America. In this way, the book is a bit of a sheep in wolf’s clothing. On the surface it reads like a Fleming book but is much closer to the modern Bond that movie goers will be familiar with.
Quibbles aside, there is more than enough here to keep Bond fans happy. They know what to expect – fast cars, daring escapes, beautiful women and a remorseless villain who can’t help but spend a good ten pages monologuing about both his tragic past and his evil plans once he has Bond in his clutches – and Horowitz delivers. And while those readers know how it is all going to end from page one, there is plenty of fun to be had in getting there.